Alberta recently announced on June 20, 2013, that temporary foreign workers who have been employed within Canada for a minimum of two years are eligible to self-nominate themselves for the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program. This change extends to high-skilled and low-skilled workers; however, only employees within the food and beverage processing, hotel and lodging (specifically food and beverage servers, room attendants, and front desk agent/clerks), manufacturing, trucking, and food services industries are eligible for the program.

This action brings Alberta to the forefront in extending citizenship to temporary foreign workers, as federally, only high-skilled workers and live-in caretakers qualify for Canadian citizenship. Outside of Alberta, low-skilled temporary foreign workers are unable to obtain permanent residency. They face high restrictions with receive little stability: at the end of every work cycle they must return back to their home country without a guarantee of future employment should they wish to return the next year. They are second-class individuals who work our fields yet have neither human rights protections nor the ability to stay in Canada permanently.

This bill is a positive first step towards recognizing the hard work and tenacity of low-skilled migrant workers within Canada. It also takes strides to address some of Alberta’s chronic labour shortages. There are still many ways in which human rights protections for temporary foreign workers is lacking: for example, the two year wait can easily be used as a threat by employers to stop their employees from speaking out about their workplace conditions. Furthermore, this change excludes agricultural workers and other low-skilled workers who are not within the listed eligible industries. However, this is a positive move by Alberta to recognize the contributions that temporary foreign workers who invest their time, labour, and money make to their country.

Congratulations to Alberta on this change, and here’s to hoping that we see other provinces follow Alberta’s lead.